Truth Is One, Paths Are Many
Excerpted from To Know Your Self, by Sri Swami Satchidananda
Any religion that quarrels with another religion is not truly a religion. Religion means all-embracing, no quarrels. If ever a person calls him or herself religious and denies the other’s way or religion, know for sure that person doesn’t yet understand his or her own religion.
There is one Cosmic Essence — all-pervading, all-knowing, all-powerful. As such, it has no limited form and name, but can take any. This One is the cause for all these many things that we call creation or manifestation. Therefore, all beings are essentially pure, calm, and divine.
By communicating with this One, or by realizing this, we can have better understanding, better living, and greater capabilites. We may call this God, Brahman, Adonoi, Allah, Father, Mother, The Thing-in-Itself, Cosmic Consciousness, Divine Essence, and so on and so on endlessly. This One can be approached by any form or symbol to suit the taste of the individual.
But we cannot communicate with or realize this One without a clean, calm mind as our instrument. And without a sound body, it is almost impossible to maintain a calm mind, at least in the beginning. By nature the mind and body are happy and healthy, peaceful and at ease. It is our duty to maintain this ease and peace. We can do this by being certain that all our actions — both physical and mental — are perfect, causing no disturbance to the mind.
All the different religions, either directly or indirectly, are helping us achieve this peace and ease. Unless individuals find this ease first, it cannot be realized throughout the world. We should resolve to lead a peaceful and ease-filled life, dedicated to the welfare of the world.
Imagine a summit that can be approached by many different routes. One climber starts from the eastern side; the other from the west. As they are climbing, they won’t see each other. But if they both have walkie-talkies, one might call to the other:
“Hey, where are you going?”
“I’m going up to the summit.”
“Hmmm? I am also going to the summit, but this is certainly the road.”
“No, you fool. Come to this side. Follow my path.”
“No, this is the only way to the summit.”
In a way, both are right. But at least until one of them reaches the goal, that person may not understand that the other is also on the goal, that person may not understand that the other is also on the way to the summit. When one gets to the top he or she will see the other also climbing. “Oh, I see now. Both paths come to the same place. I was shouting and finding fault with you, demanding that you come onto my path. Thank God, you didn’t believe me and go all the way down to the bottom again, walk around and start climbing anew. It would have taken much longer for you.”
If you know both roads are ultimately going to the same place, you can easily admit, “You are also right. We’ll meet there. You take your route; I’ll take mine.” But in order to know that, either you believe others who have told you or you must go to that summit yourself. Until then, don’t distract the other person.
That’s universality. As long as you are a seeker after God, go toward God. That’s your only business. You are a traveler. Perhaps you have a teacher who has told you the way. You have no business trying to teach others until you reach your goal. You can teach after you reach God. Then you will surely not disturb the other person’s faith. Otherwise, it is like the blind leading the blind.
No two rivers are exactly alike in quality. They have different names, shades, and tastes. But they are all running to the same source. When they reach the ocean, can you distinguish the Ganges from the Missouri, the Euphrates from the Hudson? They lose their individuality because they become one.
Whatever path you choose according to your temperament and taste, stay with that consistently. Though God can be approached through any form or name, if you keep changing from one idea of God to another, you won’t progress at all. In time, the idea you choose is accepted by your mind. Eventually, the mind itself will assume the form or qualities of the one you are worshipping or meditating on. The worshipper ultimately gets the qualities of the Worshipped. But if you keep on changing, the mind will not get those good qualities. You can’t travel on ten roads at the same time, even if they are all going to Rome.
Read more about Light Of Truth Universal Shrine (LOTUS), an interfaith shrine established by Sri Swami Satchidananda.